MSP Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Climate Change Visits Sciennes

P6A pupils and Pupil ECO Group reps were delighted to have an opportunity to meet with Ms Roseanna Cunningham, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, on Wednesday 14th June, just ahead of the inaugural National Clean Air Day on Thursday 15th June, to share what they have been learning about air quality.

Ms Roseanna Cunningham Cabinet Secretary for the Environment listens to pupil views on air quality

Mr Gregor Hutchison with his P6A class, members of the Pupil ECO Group and JRSO Josh

Pupil ECO Group member Faye leading the march for improved air quality and increased active travel

James being interviewed by STV News

Lucy being interviewed by STV News

Principal Air Scientist Colin Gillespie and Senior Specialist Air Scientist Ian Wager from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) worked with Sciennes’ Science Specialist, Mr Mark McKenna, and P6 Class Teacher, Mr Gregor Hutchison, to deliver practical experiments designed to help the children understand how pollution and emissions can adversely affect air quality.

Principal Air Scientist Colin Gillespie, SEPA

Pupils from Mr Hutchison’s P6A class have been learning about air pollution using SEPA’s educational  resources

Raising awareness of factors affecting air quality through practical science experiments

P6A have been using Colin Gillespie’s excellent SEPA materials in class and have been analysing data from an air quality sensor installed in our playground a few weeks ago by Ian Wager.

SEPA’s Senior Specialist Air Scientist Ian Wager installed an air quality sensor two weeks ago

You, too, can monitor the air pollution outside our school on the website

We were delighted to receive a handheld air quality sensor, courtesy of

The pupils have also undertaken traffic surveys in surrounding streets to try to see and offer explanations for trends in air pollution at different times of the day. For example, the children noticed that raised levels occurred on two very wet days and hypothesised that could be due to more people taking to their cars. They were also concerned about the high levels of pollution that can be pinpointed to occur during their playtimes.

Sciennes has pioneered and sustained an Active Travel Policy for more than 20 years.

  • Cycle Training for 100% of P6 pupils for more than 20 years. 
  • High quality instructors funded by Parent Council for ten years 
  • Curriculum cycling opportunities provided for P1-P7 
  • P3 and P5 cycling opportunities identify pupils who then receive targeted support and are taught in school how to ride a bike 
  • Regular and frequent Cycle to School Days 
  • Class set of balance bikes for Early Years 
  • Stock of bicycles and helmets for disadvantaged pupils 
  • Annual second hand bike sales 
  • Strong, parent led campaigns for improvements to surrounding streets sustained for many years 
  • Parent funded bike racks 
  • Current CEC School Streets pilot – road closed at drop off and pick up 
  • Road closed for school fairs 
  • Re-assignment of staff car park has seen an increase in active travel to work 
  • SEPA air quality sensor installed two weeks ahead of National Clean Air Day – P6 class monitoring and using SEPA educational resources 
  • Pupil ECO Group rep from each class P4-P7 leading on raising awareness of National Clean Air Day 

Permanent Road Closure – Tireless, unwavering, determined and ambitious campaigning from successive parents, Head teachers, staff, Parent Council and community groups now within tantalisingly achievable grasp
Outcome of road closure? Improved air quality, increased active travel, much needed playground space for current and successive generations of pupils and community

At Sciennes we are most fortunate to have pioneered and sustained an Active Travel policy and programme for more than twenty years, vigorously and tenaciously supported by successive parents, Headteachers and staff throughout that time period. Consistently maintained high profile curriculum Cycle Training, Cycle to School and Walk to School Days, curriculum Cycle Adventure Days to the Meadows and the Innocent Railway, support for cycling initiatives such as the Skelf Bike Park, the Bike Station, The Edinburgh Festival of Cycling, family cycling events, Pedal on Parliament, Dr Bike and national cycling events and races have, we believe, directly contributed to increased community awareness and engagement which has resulted in a vast increase in active travel since campaigns began. Re-assigning usage of our staff car park to a new Dining Hall facility has led to a change in behaviour in staff travel, with the majority now cycling and walking to school. Parents have successfully campaigned on our behalf over many years for improvements to the local area such as traffic calming measures in surrounding streets (road humps and pavement widening); suggestions which were considered at the time to be extremely radical.

Through the generosity of parental fundraising, annually we have been able to provide very high quality instructors for ‘Bikeability’ Cycle Training for 100% of our P6 pupils. Part of the training involves thorough safety checks of all children’s personal bikes and helmets. Cycling opportunities have also been provided for pupils from P1 -P7, with a class set of balance bikes purchased for younger pupils and a stock of bikes and helmets
available to lend to disadvantaged pupils or those who live a distance away and cannot easily bring their own bikes to school. Cycling lessons in P3 identify non-cyclists who are then given targeted support to learn how to cycle. Last week 8 P3 pupils (10%) were identified and this week all can now ride a bike. Cycling lessons in P5 again pick up children who require further instruction, allowing our pupils in P6 and P7 to participate fully in off road mountain biking at Benmore and Lagganlia Outdoor Education Centres. Parental support through fundraising has for many years helped us meet our ambition of ensuring each pupil can not only cycle but also swim by P7.

 Sciennes has been a proud pilot school for City of Edinburgh’s ‘School Streets‘ project,  since October 2015 (working in partnership with Mark Symonds, City of Edinburgh’s Road Safety and Active Travel Liason Officer) where Sciennes Road at the front of the school is closed to traffic at drop off and pick up times. This has produced an overall reduction in traffic, which will have an impact on improvement in air quality, and an increased engagement in active travel. However, ‘School Streets’ is reliant upon many parent volunteers to police it each day and is most effective when actual police can spare the resource to help enforce. Ultimately, we seek permanent closure of road, and with some urgency.

More than fifteen years ago, Sciennes’ parent, Professor Wolfram, drafted a design for redirected traffic flow and since then closure of the road has gained considerable momentum with considerable community support. Closure of the Sick Kids’ Hospital brings this ambition tantalisingly within our grasp but we seek to move at speed, ahead of any anticipated building works and associated traffic. SNP Local Councillor Alison Dickie recently visited school and lent her support to our goal to provide cleaner air, increased opportunity for active travel and expanded play space for our 655 pupils. Over the years we have been very grateful for support from local councillors of our ambitions from Steve Burgess, Ian Perry, Cameron Rose.

Recommended play area space is seven square metres per child, and our children currently have one square metre. Despite a dramatically improved playground and making use of the Meadows each lunchtime break for our P7 pupils we desperately need to provide our pupils with increased play area.

Our ECO Group, led by P6 Class Teacher Gregor Hutchison, and consisting 12 elected pupil representatives, three P6 Junior Road Safety Officers , supported by an active Parent Council ECO Group were recently awarded the school’s fourth Green ECO flag. They have led involvement in our National Clean Air Day campaign alongside Mr Hutchison’s P6 pupils who have worked closely with our Science Specialist Mr Mark McKenna to use the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency’s (SEPA) air quality materials and National Clean Air Day resources

Ian Wager, Senior Specialist Air Scientist from SEPA recently installed an air quality monitor in our playground and P6 pupils have already been analysing results, particularly noticing high levels of emissions which coincide with their playtimes. Colin Gillespie, Principal Air Scientist and designer of SEPA’s educational materials, visited pupils on Wednesday 14th June to extend their understanding further by taking part in some additional practical science experiments.

This inaugural National Clean Air Day, we respectfully asked Ms Cunningham to lend her support in making the air cleaner – and more expansive – for Sciennes’ current and future children and community by advocating the permanent closure of Sciennes Road at the front of our school.

Hope as many as possible can join Ms Angela Christie who is leading another Cycle to School Day on Friday 16th June, as part of Bike Week.